President Obama speaks at a press conference in Copenhagen after an agreement at the U.N. climate change conference was announced.
President Obama speaks at a press conference in Copenhagen after an agreement at the U.N. climate change conference was announced. - 
Listen To The Story


Kai Ryssdal: There is nothing, the saying goes, like a deadline to concentrate the mind. That has clearly been true at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen today. There have been rumors of some kind of deal bubbling around all day, and well into the night in fact, Copenhagen time.

Marketplace's Stephen Beard has been in Danish capital the past two weeks. Hello, Stephen.

Stephen Beard: Hello, Kai.

Ryssdal: Stephen, the White House says they have reached a "meaningful agreement" over there. What does that mean?

Beard: Well, what it appears to mean is that rich and poor countries have agreed to list, that is, make a record of what they're pledging to do, in terms of cutting emissions in the case of the rich countries, curbing emissions in the case of the poor ones. And they've agreed, what they call a "finance mechanism," how money will be channeled from the West to the poor countries to help them tackle climate change. And they've set a target of 2 percent Celsius, that's the temperature increase above which they don't want the average global temperature to rise by the end of the century.

Ryssdal: Seems to me then, what we have is promises and some obligations, but nothing tangible, right? We don't know where the money's coming from, we don't know what the verification methods will be, any of that?

Beard: That's absolutely right. There still appears to be no agreement on an outside system, an independent system of monitoring how the developing countries will spend the billions of dollars of financial aid that will apparently flow in their direction. We still don't know precisely where that money's going to come from, how much of it's going to come from taxpayers and how much from the private sector. And of course, we've had this agreement on a limit to global warming of only 2 degrees Celsius, but we've had that already. The G-20 -- which of course, includes China and the U.S. and all of Europe -- they agreed that about six months ago.

Ryssdal: Let's say this though: We did get an agreement -- based on all the reports that we have and what you're hearing over there -- where developed and developing countries sat down and said, "OK, broad framework, very vague, but you know what? We are in agreement on something," yes?

Beard: Yes and it's certainly better than nothing. But one other big disappointment: The expectation was nobody thought that this was going to be a legally binding agreement -- that this was going to be a treaty -- but there was the expectation that by at least the end of next year, it would be turned into a legally binding treaty. Now it turns out, that it could be two years before we get a binding treaty. And so, therefore, it means this: All this argument, all this toiling over these draft texts, all this haggling, all this waiting up until the early hours of the morning, we're going to go through this again and again for another two years.

Ryssdal: So, when the United Nations negotiating team wakes up on Monday morning, they will get right back into it, I imagine?

Beard: They go right back to work. This is an on-going process and it is going to go on until the next major UN summit in Bonn in the middle of next year, Mexico at the end of next year and beyond into 2011.

Ryssdal: Well you know where you're going to be. Stephen Beard in Copenhagen for us. Thank you Stephen.

Beard: OK Kai.